NASSAU, Bahamas - R&B singer Aaliyah and her video crew were in such a rush to return to Florida Saturday that they demanded a charter plane pilot take off without checking the weight of their equipment - even though the pilot was afraid the plane was dangerously overloaded, according to witness reports.
In addition, Pro Freight Cargo Services, a South Florida freight company, said it, too, was pressured by Aaliyah's representatives to haul equipment to the Bahamas without a careful weight check, citing production schedules. But that company refused to give in.
In all, at least three people, including a baggage handler who warned the pilot he was placing the flight in jeopardy, say they saw the plane being loaded with what they feared was too much weight.
U.S. and Bahamian accident investigators on Monday said they would look into these accounts, as well as whether the Cessna 402B lost power after taking off from Marsh Harbour. The plane crashed, killing all nine on board, including Aaliyah.
Lewis Key, a Bahamian charter pilot, told the New York Post he overheard a dispute between Luis Antonio Morales, the plane's pilot, and Aaliyah's crew shortly before the plane took off.
"With nine people and all the camera and sound equipment they were loading, the pilot kept saying, `There's too much weight for a safe flight to Opa-locka,' " Key told the Post. "He tried to convince them the plane was overloaded, but they insisted they had chartered the plane and they had to be in Miami Saturday night."
The pilot is responsible for ensuring a plane is properly loaded.
As part of the investigation, officials plan to take all the items from the plane and weigh them. The Cessna 402B has a maximum allowable weight of 6,300 pounds, of which about 1,650 pounds are permitted for passengers and baggage.
Federal investigators plan to inspect the engines to look for signs of malfunction.